Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Wednesday, Sep 29, 2010
Which is she, empowered teen or soiled dove? What image does Bristol want to sell and why sell one at all?

I know that I usually just talk about video games in this blog, but I feel compelled to address Dancing With the Stars here anyway. Largely, this is due to the game-like qualities of the show, which is obviously a competition of sorts leaning more towards sport, perhaps, than the kind of games that I usually address. However, it seems to me that there are so many odd intersections of sport, performance (of several sorts, physical as well as more intellectual or emotive forms of performance), aesthetics, and even narrative that I feel that I need to unpack the odd mildly interactive experience that is the Dancing With the Stars phenomenon.


Additionally, Dancing With the Stars feels like a kind of game within a game, since what motivates its “players” seems a game only tangentially related to the competition that they are a part of. As Dancing With the Stars draws its competitors from a pool of “celebrities” (of varying qualities of fame, leaning often enough more towards a leaner form of notability than not), there seems some interest on the part of the performers in using the show as a means of playing at something else that at least resembles a game, public relations and marketing (especially of the self in this instance).


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Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010
People may not listen when they feel like they're being preached at, but raw data has a voice all its own.

My time with the Wii Fit may be the longest period that I’ve ever played one video game. As of this writing, I’ve been using the game for over 860 days. There was a month here or there that I took a break, but I always ended up coming back to it. I’ve written about the device extensively, first making fun of it and then comparing it to the competition. I’ve consistently considered the Wii Fit to be the superior program despite the fact that in many ways it is not. It is not the most effective work out regime and it’s not even an accurate representation of BMI. I’m also going to hazard a guess and say it will still be superior to the Kinect and the Sony Move’s offerings. The reason for this is fairly simple: it goes far beyond exercise by tracking your weight and commenting on your progress.


For the purposes of this piece, I’m going to be talking about Wii Fit Plus, which adds a couple of key features that are essential to turning the Wii Fit into an effective weight loss tool. Some things still aren’t perfect. The game swaps out your trainer without asking, and it still finds bizarre ways to insult you intermittently. Sometimes I wonder if the developers intentionally made that little white board into a hateful little shit just as an extra motivator. What they added to the game was the ability to string together a series of exercises to make a private work out routine. The diet planner and tracker is decent, but you can get a more portable and accessible one on your I-phone or DS. I find that it’s best to write down what I eat right when it happens rather than force myself to remember it. The push ups and ab work outs on it aren’t half bad and you can string them into an effective 20 minute regime. After that, about ten minutes of hula hooping makes it a decent routine. This isn’t enough to actually lose weight. I’ve also had to do 30 minutes of cardio in the morning and diet heavily. In this regard, the Wii Fit is not actually a good exercise game, but it is a good weight loss game.


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Monday, Sep 27, 2010
Henry Jenkins's ideas of transmedia and convergence culture may have huge implications for what it means to be a "gamer" in a media generation in which play is optional.

Over the period of September 11th through the 15th, a group of friends—far from the light and sound show of Bungie’s Times Square launch party—gathered together in a suburban basement in the Midwest for their own miniature Halo: Reach convention.


For most, this was their first hands-on Halo experience. Though a handful had played the previous games (one because of her work—she’s a Microsoft support technician), most had come at the series through ancilliary media: the expanded universe of the comics, the novels, and to some extent the excessively detailed Halopedia. All but one or two had gotten into it through Red vs Blue, a machinima webseries using Halo multiplayer as a way of animating the show (especially the later seasons that shift toward a more serious tone). For this group of college-aged, female* fans, Halo was more an extension of the fan driven webseries—not the other way around.


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Monday, Sep 27, 2010
The Moving Pixels Podcast considers the changing face of death in video games as well as what kinds of roles death serves in games.

Death happens in games.  A lot.


Well, or at least it used to.  This episode of the Moving Pixels Podcast considers the changing face of death in video games as well as what kinds of roles death serves in games. 


Is death about punishment, pleasure, pedagogy, or is it merely an immersion breaking illusion?  We play around with a number of possibilities.


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Friday, Sep 24, 2010
Dead Rising understands an important fact about zombies that most other zombie games forget, deny, or ignore. Zombies make boring bad guys.

I only beat Dead Rising: Case Zero on my third attempt. In Case Zero, Chuck Green and his zombie-bitten daughter, Katey, get stranded in a small town overrun by the undead. In 12 hours, the military will arrive to wipe them all out, and in that time, Chuck must get Katey a dose of Zombrex to stop her from turning zombie and build a motorcycle to escape the small town.


Zombies play a big role in Dead Rising, but they’re not your main antagonist, which is a good thing because by themselves zombies are boring. They’re slow, stupid, and easy to kill. They may be disgusting, but they’re not particularly scary unless they’re in a horde. The two most popular zombie games, Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead, use zombies as a starting point for horror.


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